I suffered it when I was 29 years old. By the time they identified it being a TBI there wasn't much they could do in forms of any of the medications that they were able to do. It was 2003, so I was deeply immersed in the dot com culture, and dot com, that very high paced, high-pressure environment. I was working 23 hour days basically.
In 2003 I suffered my stroke, and in 2005 I lost my first son. We were living in a town home in Santa Clara, and he actually had an accident and took a plunge out of a third story window. Here comes more of the stress. I am blessed that I had my second son; the year after I actually had my second son. That took a lot of the pain away, but at the same time, I fell into that mental anguish of what could I have done if I was an able bodied person?
Initially, back then, it was great that I had the support of my wife and of my three other children to help me through at that time. I am of Filipino descent and we traditionally have large families. I had that large amount of support there, so that helped a lot.
I had to basically redesign my life around what was going on with me, so I came to finally accept that I couldn’t dream to be back to where I was 100%. I had to adapt and figure out what I could do.
During that time in 2005, real estate had become really big in the Bay Area. I was able to get involved in Real Estate where I didn’t have to be as physical as I was before when I was doing Network Engineering jobs where I was basically a wire monkey, climbing wires.
There is a big gap with medications that I can't get filled because of our income bracket. Even if I went to the Medi-cal system I still have a share of cost, which is pretty considerable for the amount of services that I am getting.
I took the victim role, I took the shame role, what could I have done better? For a long time I was there and I wanted to isolate, but then breaking through, through my process with the organization I am affiliated with, I've gotten improvements.
From 2003 to 2005 I was in a wheel chair. During recovery, I thought, "Oh, I'm going to get back to 100% and be able to ride a motorcycle again," and more and more I realized that it may not be the goal for me to get to 100%, but any improvements is a goal in and of itself, and I've been able to accept that as progress. The past Manny would be very impatient about how slow any process would be, unless it's at his particular pace. Now after the stroke, I realize that that isn't as much of a priority as I thought it was. I'm able to celebrate the small victories.
As a father it's really just me being a lot more grateful for having my children and what my role means as a father. Initially I struggled with the whole thing with where the father role is supposed to be this machismo, I gotta go play sports with my son, I gotta throw the ball around, I have to be able to shoot baskets with my son. I've been able to take a step back from that, and understand that mentoring my son, or parenting my son doesn't necessarily mean I have to be in that physical role. I can coach him in ways of how to be a good person and a good human.
My daughter, my oldest daughter is 18, has actually decided to become an OT because of her experience with me. That just filled my heart, I am like wow. I see the compassion in my daughter grow out through me. Where I thought I was being a hindrance to her life, I am actually shaping her life.
I think I'm a redesigned person, would be the easiest way to say it. I still am who I am, but there has been a lot more awareness in where my abilities and where the limits to my abilities are. I think if I look back, I went through the exact same struggles back then, but you know, it's like I am going through the struggle plus this extra piece on top of it.
My hope is to help others become triumphant survivors.
Click below to listen to Manny's story: